Click the image below to read a lovely tale of how another individual found her place in the SCA.
I love hearing stories about how people discovered the SCA and fell in love with it. To find one's place amidst the ranks of artisans and fighters and to find a wealth of friends with a common Dream is both powerful and empowering. Likewise, I love to hear about how people who are becoming burnt out, or even disenchanted, are drawn back into the Society. It is important for all of us to remember that more often than not, it is the people around that provide those enchanting experiences for both newcomers and long-term members alike. Everyone has the ability to make a difference, and help flesh out the Dream for someone else.
Click the image below to read a lovely tale of how another individual found her place in the SCA.
This blogger's post is definitely worth a share here. She attended her first SCA event (reluctantly) with her children and had an amazing time. Some people come to the SCA believing that they will have a grand time because they have sought out this experience, others come because a friend, significant other or family member draws them in and have less positive expectations. An atmosphere of joy, kindness and learning can give both types of individual a time that they will not soon forget (and hopefully will encourage them to return).
A couple of years ago I compiled two lists/articles of information for Pennsic newcomers. They are pretty much buried in my blog at this point so I am just posting the links here for those who are interested and who might not have seen them before.
And whether this is going to be your first, tenth or last Pennsic, have a wonderful time!
Teaching classes at SCA events is one of my favorite aspects of being in this society. I love doing research, I love creating clothing and objects, and I absolutely delight in teaching the things I have learned to others. I will admit, however, that taking that first step from artisan to instructor, can be quite intimidating (and is often full of doubts and second guessing). It is hard to put yourself out there but disseminating information and sharing our work helps others grow and learn as well. Below are some tips I have for those who are considering teaching in the SCA.
I have mentioned, in classes and previous handouts, the importance of natural fibres for garb. Linen, wool and cotton breathe far better than synthetics. Rayon, a cellulose fibre, can also breathe well depending on the weave. My personal preference, however, is 100% linen, especially for Pennsic. Over the years, and over many, many Pennsics, I think I have have a system for what suits me best in terms of comfort. Given the number of hits this blog gets for "pennsic garb", "hot weather garb" and "bog dress", I thought that I would share my wardrobe tips (and some resources) in more detail. (Please note, I in no way made this entire wardrobe in a year, or even five! It took time to grow, and I am continually revising and adding too it.) My basic Pennsic Garb list is mentioned in this Pennsic Post, but this post will expound on it.
With the exception of some of my non-period Middle Eastern dance attire, all of my garb is Linen (with some wool for the evenings as well). There are great sources for linen online:
The one other thing I watch out for, especially when it comes to linen for hot weather, is short-staple linen. Regular linen is spun from long fibres from the flax plant. This is a strong fabric that absorbs water well and stays cool in the heat. Short-staple linen is made from the same fibres, but they have been chopped up, processed and spun together in to a more coarse yarn. It is a similar process to that used to make to silk noil (raw silk). The texture is often wrong for period linen, it is not as colorfast as some of the other types and, in my opinion, it does not really act like line should in the heat. Some merchants sells this linen (and at least last year started labeling it as short-staple to differentiate it). At $3 a yard, it is not a bad buy, but at $6 I really feel one are better off spending a bit more and going to one of the sites mentioned above. (Of course, I still prefer short staple linen to cotton, but I would not deliberately buy it at this point unless I got a great deal on it.)
In addition to making wise fabric choices, here are some other tips for warm-weather attire (not always period, but they often make people happy while still allowing for a look that exceeds the required "attempt"):
Now that you know what most of my garb is made out of, I will show you what I wear most often on those hot, hot days! (Note that I also take wool coats, cloaks and dresses for cooler weather as we often can have a chilly night or two at Pennsic, but I am focusing on the bulk of my garb in this article and that is geared towards heat and humidity!)
I have instructions for my summer "bog dress" and a hypothetical wrap-dress that can be found in this post: http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/blog-my-journey/summer-wardrobe
This past year there was a request from the Scribes of AEthelmearc posted to the Kingdom List. It read as follows:
Without recommendations, there are no awards. Without awards, there are no scrolls. Without scrolls, there are bored scribes.
Recommending others for awards is an important facet of our Society (and not just because bored scribes might cause havoc!). How many times have you seen someone working their butt off at every event and wondered why they do not have their Millrind (an AEthelmearc award of high merit for service)? What about that person in your Barony who takes time each week to help newcomers make their first garb?
There have been many times during conversations with friends and acquaintances about someone with striking talent or commitment and often the discussion turns to musings of why so-and-so is not yet a member of a certain order.
The answer has several elements to it and I will disregard, at this time, that politics can and do sometimes come into play here. (One can only do so much about interpersonal workings or quabbles, so I am not going to go into my thoughts on that particular matter - it is life, it happens, lol). I guess, really, it is also a very period practice if one wanted to be technical about it.
Often someone will be given an award because they are known by the right people, and are at the right events to be noticed and recognized. (Note, I am not saying that one has to curry favor, it is merely a fact that if one is more visible, than and order is more likely to take note of their work, skills or service.) Even then, someone can fly under the radar and be missed by those who have the ability to grant those awards.
Kingdom level awards are given by the King and Queen and typically, for the higher orders, they poll or consult members of an order about individuals that are brought to their attention. Remember though, Royals are busy people, and do not have time to meet or see every member of the populace, and even those who do impress them may not be known enough to them to make them a consideration for an award.
So if you have ever wondered why a friend or a teacher or other member of the SCA does not have the accolades they deserve, consider writing a recommendation for that individual. Yes, anyone can do this! Has someone gone to great lengths to help you out? Let the Kingdom know! Has someone constantly produced tasty feasts? Let others know about it! Who always fights fearlessly on the field of battle, but rarely makes it to a tournament (where it is easier to recognize one's prowess)? Write a letter to make it known! If you truly think someone is deserving, it is up to you to make sure that the folks higher up know about them. Sometimes it will happen on its own, but often even the best among us can still be overlooked.
If you are unsure of someone's current awards, most Kingdoms have an Order of Precedence listing online. You can often look up an individual (by their SCA name) and find out what awards they have already received.
Be thoughtful though, when making recommendations to the Crown. A person does not deserve an award for just showing up (or for being your bestie).
It also surprises me to discover that there are long time members of the SCA who have never before written a letter of recommendation. In many kingdoms it is very simple, and there is often an online form that can be filled out. Links are below for the various Kingdoms so that the next time you wonder why so-and-so isn't a Pelican, you can make sure that your voice on the matter is heard.
I have often been told that I should not set my expectations too high for events, and that if I have no expectations going into it then I will never be disappointed. Of course, that never works for me as I love the pre-event "high" I get when it comes to things that I view as potential amazing experiences.
Fortunately, I have never had a let-down Pennsic! Certainly, some Wars are better than others (and usually that is dependent on the weather that year), but they are all fabulous on some level.
I think the one constant though, is that all of my Wars are actually quite different. In talking with those who have had "bad Wars", I find that they had often had expectations on how the event would play out for them and instead of adapting to any changes (and there are always a few) they grieved the loss of the experience they thought they should have had.
It is important to remember that Pennsic is like a living organism, it changes each year, it grows, it is subject to the environment and the whims of the people that attend the event. I think the expectation that Pennsic will be amazing is not a bad thing, but to expect it to be a certain type of amazing should be reconsidered. I also think that few people have later Pennsics that live up to the wonder of their earliest years, but it doesn't mean that the event still can't be memorable or even wonderful! (In fact, this year there will be many hefty changes, and they are already causing a stir for some folks. Fortunately, I view most of them as very positive and look forward to things like improved water quality and a better fresh food market and the new Great Hall.)
Newcomers might notice there are definitely trends at war (look at the class lists to see what is currently "in"... a few years back the schedule was dominated by Middle Eastern classes and the last few years had an influx of Viking arts). It shifts a bit from year to year but its clear that some things are more popular than others at certain times. For those who have seen many Wars, remember that just because the thing that most interests you does not have multiple classes or events each day, does not mean that it has become irrelevant. Do you want to see more haflas at Pennsic? Host one! Do you want more live music? Learn an instrument! Do you wish there was more Tudor garb? Do your research, make it and then sign up to teach!
Below is a list of things that a newcomer can do to really get the full experience of Pennsic. It also happens to be a great list of things that an old timer can consider if they want to view the event from a fresh perspective:
I miss Pennsic. Heck, given how cold it is here this week, I miss summer! I am looking forward to starting my prep, packing and garb making that precedes the event. And yes, I can now officially get excited because registration is, at last, open!
For those who have never been to War before, well, it is everything you think it could be... and more! I firmly believe that the more prepared you are, the better your adventure will be. Below are some tips that I share with newcomers to my group who are planning to attend their first Pennsic.
I think that is is for now. I will post some additional thoughts later on things-to-do and how to enjoy your first (or tenth!) Pennsic :-)
A discussion was recently had on one of the SCA costuming groups. Someone posted a rather striking photo of garb and was trying to find the source of it. They had found the photo elsewhere, asked the poster as to the source, and were given an SCA website. The person who added the photo to the list was sure it was SCA made.
I was not so sure it was made by an SCA member. For one, I had seen either that exact image, or the garb in it, before. The other reason though, is that I do not thing I have ever seen anyone in the SCA produce earlier period garments with THAT level of quality and detail.
Yes, we have amazing artisans and costumers. And I have actually seen THAT professional level of detail and quality in very late period attire produced by members of the SCA. What you can't see in this small image is that those borders on the bottom of the tunics are embroidered. Perfectly embroidered.
If you want to see the costumes closer you can do so here: http://ranaan.altervista.org/html/SCA-Gallery.htm (And no, I cannot explain the final image on that page. LOL)
As it turns out, the costumes were commissioned by a town in Italy for part of a pageant or faire that they have each year. Some of the costumes they use are painted, and some are painstakingly embroidered and embellished by hand. They are all striking.
And the actual organization: http://www.contradasanterasmo.com/
This whole thing, however, reminded me of a recent conversation about garb, and what garb was "good enough" for 12th Night. A friend with lots of lovely Viking garb, as well as a few nice Italian Renn (not 100% accurate, but they are lovely and well-made and clearly far surpass the required "attempt" at garb), and was torn because she felt her costumes were not appropriate for 12th Night.
After reminding her that some people will be there who are just starting out, or who just prefer T-tunics, or who simply don't have "court garb" yet, we got side tracked talking about how it was back-in-the-day. I clearly recall being told in my early years in the SCA that you made late period European garb as Court garb - garb that you wear to attend Court or things like 12th Night. Tudor, Elizabethan, Italian Renn... all of those were considered appropriate items for ones Court Garb wardrobe.
Things have changed a great deal since then. While people still ooh and ahh over the decked-out embroidery-and-pearls look that many late-period European individuals still go for, it is now common place to have upper class Vikings at Court. Or someone in the well-to-do attire of a non-European persona.
I love the diversity. And I love much of the top-of-the-line non-traditional SCA garb I have come across.
But, I have yet to see something produced for an earlier period that matches the quality of the items above. Those costumes look elegant, rich, and yet, still real. Many attempts I have seen, while beautiful, still read as "costume" to me (and there is nothing at all wrong with that). I do not have the time to attempt such a feat myself, but I look forward to the day I see someone cross that line and go from fine work to fabulous. (Note, I have seen exceptional simple-but-elegant early period garb, but nothing embellished at the level of the items in the photo above.)
And please, if you have seen that somewhere in the Known World, send me photos so I ooh and ahh over their fabulousness!
I think every SCA newbie is warned early on about the Authenticity Police (also know as the Period Nazis). Some newcomers are kindly told that some people are simply over zealous and can come off wrong in their desire to "help" others. Others are warned that there are really some mean spirited individuals out there who enjoy bullying people in bad garb.
While both situations can certainly happen, and I am sure they have happened, I do not think that either happens as often as people think. The idea of rampant Authenticity Police is something that maybe has even achieved urban legend status among SCAdians.
It is also something that has given the nice people who pursue historical accuracy a very bad rap.
I think the desire to make a newbie feel welcome and comfortable is foremost in the minds of many members of the SCA when they offer these well intended warnings. The unfortunate result, however, can sometimes lead to anxiety over things that should never have have even occurred to them. A recent conversation with someone who has been to many Pennsics, as well as quite a few other events, over the years made me realize how much these Authenticity Police stories can affect people. It actually can make people fear attending something if they do not have what they perceive as the "right garb" lest they be judged.
I think I have mentioned before that at my very first event someone told me I should not wear a white belt (when indeed, my belt was actually a medieval girdle, in cream, with a wide black border sprinkled with pink flowers). While this person was not giving critique of my actual garb (rather she was correcting what she saw as my lack of understanding about SCA conventions), the idea is the similar. Her delivery was a bit off and I was already insecure about being there and my sewing skills and it bothered me. In retrospect, I think she was trying to be helpful, the delivery plus my insecurity just made the whole experience not sit well. That being said, I have never actually been approached about my garb, its quality or its lack of authenticity.
I cannot actually even think of a story anyone has told me where they personally got raked over the coals for what they were wearing. It is always so-and-so knows someone who knew someone who had a baroness who when she was a newbie got lit-up by the Period Police at her first event. (I am definitely not saying this has never happened. I am sure that somewhere, sadly, it has. It may even not have been intentionally mean when it happened, but I can certainly see how it could come off in that manner. The fact is though, that these things can happen in any club, hobby or other social activity and when they do take place we need to learn to not take it personally and just move on.)
Telling these tales of ill-treatment by those who choose to strive for perfection of an art not only adds to a understandable newcomers anxiety, but can also create this aura of unapproachability around those who strive for a greater level of authenticity. That is not fair either party as it deprives the artisan of an outlet with whom they can share their skills and knowledge and it also deprives the newcomer of an excellent resource.
I was surprised this week to learn from one of my forums that are are actually people in the SCA who view all masters of their art (both Laurels and those who have not yet been recognized for their efforts) in the same light. Some people see those on a quest for greater accuracy as individuals incapable of kindly sharing what they know and who would look for an opportunity to bring another down.
I do not know know which scenario is more detrimental to the Society, but there has to be a way to rectify it for everyone.
Personally, I am going to stop telling the "watch out for the zealots" horror stories. I will say instead (what I have already stated in this blog) that it is always fine to approach someone and ask to know more about what they are doing, they may even love you for it. I will also remind people that it takes all kinds to make up any social group and to try to understand unasked for advice in the light it may have been given. Someone might see a new person and want to help them with info overload, not remembering what it is like to be new and unsure. It happens and should not be taken as personal criticism.
And I will remind myself to try not to blow some persons brain up and talk for four hours with what is possibly way more than they wanted to know at the time. ;-)
I am mother to a billion cats and am on journey to recreate the past via costume, textiles, culture and food.
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Blogroll of SCA & Costume Bloggers
Below is a collection of some of my favorite places online to look for SCA and historic costuming information.
More Amie Sparrow - 16th Century German Costuming
Gianetta Veronese - SCA and Costuming Blog
Grazia Morgano - 16th Century A&S
Mistress Sahra -Dress From Medieval Turku
Loose Threads: Cathy's Costume Blog
Mistress Mathilde Bourrette - By My Measure: 14th and 15th Century Costuming
More than Cod: Exploring Medieval Norway